On the way to preschool a few weeks ago my son and I got to talking about foreign species of animals and how destructive they are to the habitats they invade. In that rather complex conversation I realized my son knew a lot about habitats but there were some animals he simply said came from the zoo … it was time for some learning cloaked as a game. I finally got around to making this over the weekend and we had fun.
- Gather your materials. I used construction paper and scissors for the paper habitat mats I made, double stick tape and a glue stick. You will also need a marker and lots of animal toys. Some of ours are bath toys that weren’t all the way dry… oops.
- Start by cutting the sheets of construction paper in half , this size is perfect for the mats and then you can use the other half for the cut outs.
- Decide which habitats you will make. I decided on jungle, farm, antarctic, and forest because of the animals we had on hand. Remember to use the toys you have for learning, with some brain storming you can save money and play with all those extras that don’t get much use. My helper played with the animals while I brain stormed, with her goggles on of course.
- Create. I loved doing this. If you have older kids see if they want to create this for their younger sibling(s).
- Label them and call for someone to come play!
- With my five year old I let him sort and when he tried to put the raccoon in the jungle I asked ” Have you seen racoons around here? Do we live in the jungle?” and let him answer and adjust. Always ask why because sometimes they have a darn good reason that may only make sense to them but it will likely open up a teaching opportunity for you. Younger kids like my daughter can do an simplified version with only one mat and a simple yes or no sorting activity. I’d focus mostly on labeling the animals and their attributes at that age.
- After he sorted the rest I took some and placed them in the wrong place. Asking why a monkey couldn’t live in the antarctic, or why a whale wouldn’t enjoy swimming in the pond in a forest. This forced him to consider why animals live in specific places. We also touched on domestication and how farms and zoos are different. It was the best part of the lesson and wouldn’t have happened without the sorting game as an ice breaker.
The Next Step
These are my ideas for extending the activity for children who are ready for it . The next step for this would be to purposefully put an animal in the wrong habitat and ask your child to write down a list of things they would need to survive in the wrong habitat. For example a monkey in the antarctic would need warm clothing, fresh fruit delivered, a enclosure built off the ice, maybe even some snow boots! Let them make the list but make sure they answer why they need each item too!
A House for Hermit Crab is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t loose any of the entertainment in trying to hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug and almost time for the hermit crab to leave it behind and find a bigger one. The book teaches about sea creatures habitats, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable.
Pretend play is probably my favorite part of early childhood education because there are countless lessons hidden in every pretend play scenario. We turned our playroom into a vet clinic simply by mixing a few stuffed animals with our trusty doctor kit and rearranging the furniture. It was fast for me to set up and both kids enjoyed taking care of their animals. Along the way they learned about body parts, empathy and my son and I had a nice chat about prescriptions and why it’s important to only ever take medicine the doctor has specifically prescribed for you .
- Gather your materials. You will need some stuffed animals, a play doctor kit , some paper, a clip board, marker , and a bench or table to use as an exam table. I added a basket for my daughter who wanted to tuck her patients into bed after she examined them.
- Set up a waiting area with furniture and books – our books were all about dogs and cats, you can check out our reviews after the tutorial.
- Set up an exam room. I labeled each area and encourage you to as well, it helps deepen the play as well as adds some reading to the activity.
- Make a check list for older kids who are reading and either have them write or circle answers. Can you tell I did this in a hurry? It was almost time to get my son from school. Best thing is he didn’t care, as long as he could read it no need to be perfect!
- Play! My daughter examined her cat trying out each instrument and having just had her own 18 month old check up she was familiar with many of them. I chatted with her as she played but didn’t intervene unless she interacted with me. I did pretend to nurse the cat as per her request.
- She loves her patients!
- With my son I pretended to be the dog and cat’s owners but followed his lead.
- We worked in measurement and gave the pup a little oxygen.
- The puppy got a clean bill of health!
Books About Cats and Dogs
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake (If You Give… Books) by Laura Numeroff is one of the newer “If You Give…” series. I like this one , I mean any book with a cat in a bathing suit is worth a look. I am a big fan of these stories not only because they have just the right amount of text for young preschoolers, but also because the illustrations by Felicia Bond are so detailed you can spend ages talking about what your child sees in the book after the words are read. I love the cause and effect , and after a few readings your child will have fun telling you what’s next.
Otto Goes to Bed by Todd Parr is a really fun and positive book. Otto is a dog who doesn’t want to go to bed, he wants to play, chase his tail and a bath and brushing teeth don’t help. Instead he figures out that there is something he likes about bedtime, dreaming! I like that this book addresses that going to bed feels like missing out on things for kids, I know I felt like that for years. Instead of blankly saying “Sleeping is great” or “You have to go to bed” this book finds something positive about going to bed . The illustration of Otto as a super hero dog makes my son howl with laughter every time.
Otto Goes to the Beach by Todd Parr was a steal of a deal at the Goodwill ! I got a hardcover in perfect condition for 70 cents. My bargain hunting aside, I really enjoy this book as did my son. Otto is a dog who goes to the beach but no one wants to do the same things as he does, even the fish swim the other way! In the end after feeling very sad Otto finds a new friend and all his misery is forgotten. I love Todd Parr books, I love the insanely bright colors, the cute simplistic illustrations and I love the messages they send. This book followed his other books perfectly and provided a great final message about not giving up finding a friend who will like all the same things you do!
This post was shared on Nurture Store’s Play Academy
My house loves animals. We love learning about them. So it is no wonder that the favorite show in our house is Wild Kratts on PBS. If you are not familiar with it I will give you a brief description. The Kratt brothers learn about different animals and how amazing they are by using their creature power suits. They push a button on the suit and touch that animal to essentially become that animal. They will talk about the neat things the animals do for the ecosystem, what amazing abilities they have, etc. They have been lions, cheetahs, honey badgers, and even made earthworms look cool.
So I made my son an easy version of a creature power suit. Now he can be just like the Wild Kratts!
You will need poster board (or card stock), markers, scissors, elastic, stapler, and self adhesive velcro.
First I took a small bowl and traced circles onto the posterboard. I had my son cut out the circles. I made 5 circles, but you can make however many you would like.
After he cut out the circles I had him write his name on one of the circles.
Then I asked him what animals he would like to become with his creature power suit. He was eager to draw each animal on their own circle.
While he was drawing, I cut a piece of elastic just a little bit over a yard (probably by about 4-5 inches). I tied the ends together in a knot.
I made the elastic loop into a figure 8 shape. Then I stapled the center where the elastic crosses over each other. You can hot glue or sew this, but I did stapling because it is easy, fast, and there is no hot things lying around for my kids to try to grab.
I took the circle with his name on it and stapled it to the crossover part I had just stapled. Then I put a piece of the rough/hard velcro in the middle of the circle.
Your power suit is complete. Just have your kids put an arm into each opening and make sure the name emblem is on their chest. It is easy for them to slide on and off by themselves.
Put a piece of the fluffy velcro on the back of each of the animal circles your child created. Now they can attach that animal to their power suit and become that animal!
We made a lion, “Jesus” lizard, Tasmanian devil, and a falcon emblem. Here is my son being a falcon. Doesn’t the puppy look impressed?
He ran through the house so fast that I couldn’t get a clear shot. We had fun talking about what those animals ate, where they lived, what they would be afraid of, and how they would talk and play with their friends. Man, I love little kids! This is a great activity/craft for learning about animals and using your imagination while getting the kids active.
Just so you know: The opinions about Wild Kratts is strictly my own and does not reflect any views Allie or No Time for Flash Cards may have regarding the show or PBS. This show is wildly popular at my house and this craft was a huge hit, so I thought I would share it with others. Neither this craft or this post was sponsored in any way. PBS and Wild Kratts have no idea who I am and never contacted me about this.
**If you do choose to use staples in this craft like I did, then you need to make sure the ends are curved in to ensure no scratching or cutting will occur. Obviously staples can be sharp and need to be used with caution. You can always use the alternatives mentioned in the post if you are uncomfortable using the staples.**
_____________________________________________________________________________________________Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.
Paper plates are a must have for any summer camp, preschool or even home craft supply closet. The endless possibilities of fun and educational crafts are well, endless. Here are some paper plate kids crafts we have done over the years. I hope that the extra plates from summer BBQ, church picnics and cookouts can be used to make something fun.
Bunny crafts aren’t just for Easter time, toddlers and preschoolers readily identify with these animals because so much media is directed towards them with bunny themes: books, TV , even clothing for little ones often have fuzzy little bunnies on them. So grab some cotton balls and enjoy this activity from our contributing writer Katy.
This is a great, easy activity that you can do with your child if they have the motor skills or you can create it and then share it with them if they don’t.
Book We Enjoyed
It’s Springby Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet